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ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Female employees of Costco Wholesale Corp. filed a sex discrimination class-action suit, alleging that the giant retailer imposes a glass ceiling that prevents women from reaching the top management positions and keeps them in lower-paid positions, reported the St. Paul Pioneer Press.
The suit seeks lost pay and benefits, damages, and injunctive relief for the class.
Although Costco's U.S. work force of 78,000 is nearly 50 percent female, just one in six managers are women, according to a civil rights complaint filed in federal court in San Francisco.
The lawsuit also claims the women are not able to even apply for the higher-paying jobs because the firm typically does not post them, relying instead on a "tap on the shoulder," where top-level male executives typically pick other males for assistant manager and general store manager positions.
Representing the complainant, Berkeley, Calif.-based lead counsel Brad Seligman said in a statement: "There is no promotion system at Costco -- women must rely on the subjective and arbitrary decisions of Costco's all-male senior management. Not surprisingly, the men at Costco get a better deal when it comes to promotions." Seligman is also lead counsel in the Wal-Mart sex discrimination suit, which has recently been certified as a national class action and is the largest-ever such case, with up to 1.6 million plaintiffs.
In a statement, Costco said: "We strongly disagree with any claim that Costco has discriminated against any individual or group of employees, and we will respond to this particular claim in the proper forum."